29 August 2012

On the Democratic National Convention

In a matter of days I'll board a plane to my next big adventure: The 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I hadn't planned to blog about it really, because I don't want to be pigeon-holed as some sort of partisan hack (I'll just take the "hack," thanks!) but I think it will be useful for me and for whomever is interested to see a few thoughts here.  (Assuming I have time.)

Best of all, it will keep me from having to repeat myself!

So, first, a primer.

A political convention, in my experience, accomplishes a few things:

  • Gathers all of the party faithful and the merely curious into the same room over a period of days;
  • At the state level (in WA it is every even-numbered year) and the federal level (every Presidential election year) it offers Delegates a chance to vote on the Party's platform.  A platform is essentially a statement of values - this is where lines are drawn around every public policy issue you can think of - water rights, agriculture, choice, immigration, foreign policy...and so on.
  • Fires up activists, gives related organizations a chance to flesh out their mailing lists with delegate names, offers trainings, fundraisers, and so on for convention goers.
  • And the part that the media pays attention to: Offers the party a chance to Nominate our chosen candidates for office. This is usually routine, such as anointing a gubernatorial candidate, but sometimes other statewide races don't go so well.  In Washington State, Libertarians sued this year to keep Romney off of the ballot as a Republican candidate by arguing that the Republicans are no longer a "majority party" under state law because they didn't nominate a candidate for US Senate in 2010.  (The courts ruled against them.)
  • Also, lets not forget that national conventions are some guaranteed national spotlight that allow campaigns a shot at defining their candidates. Or not.  (Anyone remember that horrible moment in 2000 when Al Gore kissed Tipper and just wouldn't stop? Ugh.)
I attended the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, but I not as a Delegate.  I was a member of the Finance Team for the Host Committee, which was a wholly different experience than that of a Delegate because I was working at least 14-hour days.  There will be no more $25k/pp breakfasts for me this time, and no receptions at Magic Johnson's house.  No raising $50M, no giant crates of red-white-and-blue M&Ms to figure out how to distribute in delegate gift bags, no $2M media party to attend.  I also probably will not run into Rob Reiner in the stairway, so I will not have to resist temptation again to tell him how much I loved The Princess Bride.

But I'll get to The Floor this time, I will actually get to enjoy the parties to which I'm invited rather than having to work the room or babysit a billionaire.  I will have a voice in the platform, and best of all, I will be able to sign my name to the nomination form for President Obama.  I will get to know some of the extraordinary people in the Washington delegation, and from across the country.  The Historian will not be there with me as opportunities for guests, even spouses, were not guaranteed.  But it will be an amazing time, and I hope my more non-partisan readers will indulge me as I really savor this amazing experience!

For more during the day - assuming my cell phone works - follow me on Twitter at Hihankara.  The WA State Dems will also be uploading photos from our Delegation photographers daily - "like" them on Facebook for access. 

27 August 2012

Pics From My Car - Deadwood on Sunset Blvd

This is the formal debut of my new series - Pics From My Car.  I never quite realized how many photos we have taken while driving, or flying, or on a boat, and some are fun and interesting.  So on or about every Monday I'll have a new installment.  

This is a bit of a soft start, but it was quite a fun moment for The Historian and I.  We had moved to Los Angeles from South Dakota, and after five years of navigating the urban jungle, it was surreal for us when all of "Hollywood" was suddenly ga-ga for Deadwood.  

The show was based around the town, which is a National Historic Landmark.  The writers combed city archives and drew many of the characters from those who were named in newspaper stories from the day.  My family had been in the real Deadwood for generations, and The Historian was actually *the* historian for the city which is how we met.  His efforts to build the city archive and support the town's landmarks definitely contributed to the community and the show!

Imagine our delight then when we were driving down famed Sunset Boulevard in La-La Land and spotted this billboard.  We had to circle back and take a photo for all of the folks back in the Wild West.  

14 August 2012

"I could break you."

I should have known that I was in for it on Friday when I had a new massage therapist who was clearly born an Amazon.  These are the things she said to me during the session:

  • "You remind me of another client I have who was in a car accident. I've worked on her for six months."
  • "If we work on this long enough I'm sure I could break you."
  • "My grandfather was a massage therapist when they could still use tools.  He modified an industrial floor sander that I wish I could use on you."
By the end of my 90 minutes I could tell she was exhausted, and that I'd feel amazing.  And I did, for about three hours.  But I think she must have bruised me a wee bit after I found myself shrieking when The Historian dared lay a single gentle hand on my back.  

It was worth it, but I think I'll start drinking more water like my sister (also a massage therapist) tells me to.  Looking forward to her telling me "I told you so."

10 August 2012

Why we need to go to South America

I was offered a job this week and my exact conversation with The Historian was "If I take it then we need to start thinking about where our next trip is going to be."  Clearly I have my priorities straight.

I've decided it should be South America - we'll see if he agrees.  Not because a tour of wine country in Chile would be amazing (it would!), or because I want to learn to tango in Buenos Aires or even to take in some world-class soccer in Rio. 

Ok well maybe it would be for those things. 

But I really like taking photos of graffiti, such as these from Budapest...

Do not anger the Couch Monster.

Or my all time favorite of the Lennon Wall in Prague:

"Reach down as well as up...no roots = no branches!"

Perhaps most magical is the accidental discovery that we have "love" graffiti from many of our trips.  As much as people would like to draw lines between people, or categorize them, or vilify or deify or blame, I love that no matter what continent you're on, someone out there is in love and wants to declare it in a public act of vandalism.*  Below are a few...

Castle of Eger, Hungary

Tempe, AZ

Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria, Egypt

Close up of the above.

A highway in Alaska

Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, Iceland

South America and Asia are not represented in this collection, which is really why Chile, Argentina, and Brazil should be next on the list. Then China and Thailand. (Are you taking notes, Historian?)  

* I think it goes without saying that there is a line at which graffiti becomes jackass behavior.  Don't be a jackass! 

03 August 2012

On Volunteering

It is easy to forget, in the comfort of our American lives (What The Atlantic calls The Land of Big Groceries, Big God, and Smooth Traffic) how incredibly important it is to be involved.  I'm often asked why I am involved in politics, and I usually make some kind of a joke about it. In truth though, it is because I choose not to abdicate my voice to a stranger.  If I speak up about an issue, even if the vote doesn't go my way, at least I know I tried, and I know there are 20 people out there who agree with me but don't know how to speak up for themselves, or genuinely don't have time.  I speak up because I know there are good politicians out there, ethical and decent, who need my support to win so they can govern all of us well, regardless of party affiliation.  

I don't consider myself to be hyper-partisan (despite going to the DNC).  My time in an ultra-conservative graduate school where I earned a Masters in Public Policy not only taught me fortitude (!) but also that no matter what people's particular party affiliations are, at the end of the day, we all want what is best for our communities - we just disagree on how to get there.  What is important is being able to have a conversation and try for genuine understanding of people with whom I disagree. That's another benefit to volunteering - you will be challenged on your beliefs. Whether a door slammed in your face or some guy implying a threat because he is giving you a thousand yard stare while holding a pitchfork.  

And then, if the guy with the pitchfork wins at least he is not a stranger, right?

02 August 2012

"I no longer want to be in the shade."

I am less than a month from attending the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC as a PLEO Delegate from Washington State.  It is an elected position, one I worked hard to win, and I am honored to go.  I believe I was elected for two reasons - 1) I have spent a great deal of time volunteering and serving in leadership positions for the party and 2)  I knew many of those voting (or they knew me) and 3) I had never been as a delegate before.*

And while my husband may think me special, I know that in reality my story is like many others across the country - dedicated volunteers who work hard to build their communities, support great candidates, or have struggles in their lives that have made their voices one that the people in their state wanted to send to Charlotte so they could be heard.

Today one of my fellow delegates, Majid Al-Bahadli has been profiled by the Arab American Institute for the extraordinary path that brought him out of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, to American Citizenship, to being the 1st Iraqi-American Delegate in 2008, and now he is in our delegation again this year.  

Majid Al-Bahadli's story is an extraordinary tale of determination, survival, and success. In the small way I've gotten to know him I've found him to be exceptionally kind and generous, and he is doing much to give back to our country.  Majid is quoted as saying that he became politically active as an American because "A successful country cannot have a people with no voice. I no longer want to be in the shade and in a dark place. Why can't we all be involved? Why should you let others make decisions for us?"

The answer is we all can be involved, and it is easy to do so. Its primary time in Washington state, and only 17% of ballots have been mailed in so far.  That's way too many people letting others decide for them...time to vote, folks!

* I have been to a DNC before, in 2000, when I worked as a member of the Finance team for the Los Angeles Host Committee.  But that was a completely different experience - it was work! And required a suit and heels every day! So as a delegate I expect fewer fundraising breakfasts with the President and no running into celebrities in the hall but I think getting to represent WA at this event wins as far as "coolness."